While the words out of Washington D.C. regarding tourism these days seem largely to involve increased security and travel bans, U.S. tourism officials are quick to point to another issue that threatens to derail visitations to the States: infrastructure. The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) and Brand USA, the marketing arm of U.S. tourism, are urging the federal government to step up and invest heavily in the modernization of the nation’s airports and air traffic control system.
“What really concerns us at U.S. Travel, more than anything else, is the state of our airports,” said USTA national chair Geoff Ballotti at the recent IPW trade show in the U.S. capital. “Why is it taking so long to fix our airports?”
The feeling is that, in addition to safety, U.S. airports are often welcome mats for the country, providing essential positive (or negative) first impressions to visitors.
Despite massive ongoing renovations to some of the nation’s biggest airports – LaGuardia and JFK in New York, and LAX (Los Angeles International), to name a few, Ballotti says more than two-thirds of states have seen their airports deteriorate, while 60 per cent have even seen connectivity decline in the past decade.
Beyond advocating for more federal government investment, one solution would be to allow public airports to find private partners to help fund improvements. Because as it stands, Ballotti says, the current system is “just not working well enough.”